Hely-Hutchinson/Chisholm/Rajna

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COMPOSERS: Hely-Hutchinson/Chisholm/Rajna
LABELS: GSE Claremont
WORKS: Songs for a Year and a Day
PERFORMER: Aviva Pelham (soprano), Brad Liebl (baritone), Thomas Rajna (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CD GSE 1572 (distr. Complete)
All three composers represented here have strong connections with Cape Town. Victor Hely-Hutchinson was born there in 1901, though he moved to Britain where he eventually became director of music for the BBC, dying at the age of 45. The songs here reveal a modest but conventional talent and sound pretty dated. Though there’s more sophistication in the examples by Erik Chisholm (born in Glasgow in 1904, and an important figure in South African musical life for many years as professor of music at Cape Town), they too are of indifferent quality. Apart from a heavy-handed setting of the left-wing poet Randall Swingler, he’s represented by three arrangements from a 1784 collection called The Celtic Folk Songs and some similarly folksy settings of the Scots poet Lillias Scott. He died in 1965. Those by the Hungarian-born (in 1928) Cape-based Thomas Rajna achieve rather more, though in his Auden settings he misses the essential simplicity and understatement of the originals. His accompanying throughout the recital is exemplary, however, whether working with the pleasant baritone of Brad Liebl or the rather limited soprano of Aviva Pelham. George Hall

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